Wide receiver Jarred Fayson transferred to Illinois from the University of Florida a year ago January. He has worked out with the team through two winter conditioning periods, a spring practice, Camp Rantoul and the entire fall season. He is now in his second season of spring ball, and he must still work through the summer and fall camp before getting to play an organized game again."
Fayson is elated his time in exile is finally near an end.
"Words can't even describe it. Sitting out a whole year, it just feels good to be back. Last year I was part of the team, but I couldn't travel or stuff like that."
Of course, he has been chomping at the bit to resume his favorite activity.
"It's been killing me. I've had a whole year to power up, get my mind right, get my body right. So I'm definitely ready."
He's always practiced hard, but only now is he practicing with the purpose of preparing for an upcoming season. There is some rust, but he is eager for the challenge.
"I've been out for a whole year now, so I'm just trying to get back into the timing of playing football. We've been going through winter conditioning. It's just getting back into actual football shape like catching, getting upfield, all that stuff."
A product of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, Jarred is a former five-star dual threat quarterback with great speed and tremendous acceleration. He played some quarterback for the Illini scout team last fall to imitate fast opponents. It was fun for him and helped him to pass the time.
And he participated in team scrimmages at his receiver spot. But it just isn't the same as a real game.
"It's very hard to simulate a game. Our coaches do a very good job of handling scrimmages and stuff, but there's nothing like getting in the stadium in front of all the fans."
Fayson will be a busy man this fall, and he prefers it. He must make up for a lot of lost time.
"I'm playing on the outside. I'll do inside receiver, outside receiver, and I'll go into the backfield and do some running. I'll also be doing kickoff returns and punt returns.
"I just want to help my team any way I can. That is my main goal. So whatever they ask me to do, if I'm capable of it I'm there."
Jarred and Arrelious Benn may eventually be described as one of the best receiver tandems in college football. Certainly, they will be among the most physical pairs. Benn weighs 220, and the 6'-0" Fayson comes close to matching that.
"I'm up to 217. I've gained about 8 pounds and cut out a little fat."
He is eager to work in new Offensive Coordinator Mike Schultz's offense.
"He's talking about new schemes, everybody touches the ball all the time. That's what we want, the offense to be explosive. That's what we're gonna do."